As a start-up, one of the first decisions that has to be made is what the site’s launch infrastructure architecture will look like.

Obviously, everyone would like to have a site which has fully redundant hardware and a hot backup site that is in a different physical location. However, the tradeoffs between the cost of this architecture and what is in the bank account usually force some sort of compromise. In addition, considering the fact that usage growth will inevitably start small and then grow makes it a wise choice to start the site small with plans for growing the hardware infrastructure. Finally, many companies, at the start-up phase, prefer not to spend heavily in capital investment for hardware. This makes the case for starting using a hosting service quite strong, especially since the options range anywhere from $4.95 per month shared domain hosting to thousands of dollars a month for a fully managed, hardware redundant site.

The key to making a selection on what will work best for a company requires knowledge of the following (in no particular order):

  • What is the expected/anticipated usage of the site?

  • What is the expected growth and time-frame for that growth?

  • How is the site expected to be used? Is it content or database-driven? Will there be a primary load on the web servers or database server?

  • Are there numerous processor intensive routines that will be used frequently?

  • Will the site primarily be delivering bandwidth intensive media and content?

So, the primary initial concern is a full and complete understanding of the business and application so that an intelligent decision can be made with regard to where to focus on the site architecture.

I’ll start with the lowest cost and simplest solutions and discuss additional considerations in a later post.

Everyone sees the ads offering domain hosting for as low as $4.95 a month. These services sweeten the deal by offering ‘Unlimited Space’ and ‘Unmetered Bandwidth’ making it appear quite attractive. Are these as really as good as they appear? Well, probably for an individual, but not necessarily for a business that will rely on a hosted site for its primary business. In the end, there are several catches and concerns regarding buying into one of these plans. These are:

  • There are restrictions on what the disk space can be used for

  • There are restrictions on what types of applications can be used for the unmetered bandwidth

  • The biggest concern though is that you could be on a server that has 100 other domains with no isolation between your site and any of the other sites with regard to fault and performance isolation. This means that if one of these 100 sites causes a problem that affects the server, it will also affect you. Therefore, it is generally not a good idea to risk your business on things you cannot control, namely your unknown ‘neighbors’ on the server.

Note that there are generally other more costly plans (in the $15/month range) using this same scenario that provide additional databases, domains, functionality or applications. However, again, the greatest concern here is the sharing of resources and faults that is not isolated.

The next step up is to host your site on a Virtual Private Server (VPS). A VPS is essentially a server divided into multiple isolated environments. Each VPS has it’s own server software and provides autonomy for each website. Any issues to a site would only affect that VPS and not any other site(s) on the same server. As with a true dedicated server, each VPS has it’s own independent and isolated operating system.

Monthly pricing for a VPS is dependent upon factors such as bandwidth, RAM and disk space and costs range anywhere from $19/month to $75/month. Upgrades to bandwidth, RAM and disk space are easy and fast, providing an immense amount of flexibility when expansion is required.

The use of a VPS is an excellent and economical way to launch a web based business and provides an easy migration path to dedicated servers that I will discuss next time.